I’m not good at waiting. Most of us aren’t. We live in a culture of instant response and immediate gratification. Even waiting out a storm can drag on. “Right now” has become the norm and expectation. But immediacy in all aspects of life is a relatively new phenomenon. In the not-too-distant past, responses and news of current happenings travelled at a snail’s pace. But as pre-iPhone kids, this created anticipation each week as we looked forward to the Sunday paper’s section of cartoon strips. My favorite: the beloved Snoopy by Charles Schulz. I still remember the picture of Snoopy laying atop his red doghouse with ears relaxed and eyes closed. The caption read:
“The best things in life are worth waiting for.”
Such wisdom, yet counter-cultural today. We all want the best things in life. But let’s hurry up and get to the nitty-gritty:
1) What are the best things?
2) How long do we have to wait?
3) How can we possibly lay back and relax when we don’t know the answers to questions 1 and 2?
Before Snoopy, President Woodrow Wilson (28th President of the U.S.) reportedly proclaimed:
“All things come to him who waits––provided he knows what he is waiting for.”
Well therein lies the rub. Many of us find ourselves in a time of waiting, waiting, waiting. We want something new or we want change. We wait for something to happen, but we don’t know what will come next or when. We don’t know exactly what we’re waiting for. We just know we’re still waiting. As Christ-followers, the waiting becomes a crucible for refinement because the “right now” aspect of our culture doesn’t reflect the way God works.
The “best things” in life vary for each person, although often they aren’t “things” at all. My recommendation for anyone focused on question #1: bring this question to Jesus. Ask Him directly, “What are the best things You want me to seek right now?”
For those of us wrestling with question #2, let’s consider the differences between: passive waiting, active waiting, and patience.
Passive waiting. This type of waiting can feel like we’re perched on Snoopy’s doghouse, but we’re definitely not laying back or relaxed. We feel stuck. Life circles around us and keeps making decisions without us. We no longer control life––it controls us. This feeling of helplessness or lack of direction can breed discouragement, frustration, and depression. We may make rash decisions thinking that any action is better than no action. But whether we sink in quicksand or run in circles, we don’t go anywhere good. Our reality check: many aspects of life ARE out of control––at least out of OUR control. We can’t control other people or their decisions. We can’t control certain circumstances. We can’t control the passing of time. But we can take comfort in knowing that God IS in control. And we CAN and SHOULD take action as we wait. This leads us to: actively waiting.
Active waiting. We can turn times of waiting into positive periods of progress and anticipation because we CAN take important steps. We can control our thoughts, our decisions, our interactions––continually assessing how they reflect our hope and God’s grace, love, goodness, and excellence. We can control the stewardship of our time, talents, and financial resources––all of which have been entrusted to us. We can press into Jesus and trust that since He’s in control, our most important step is to keep in step with Him. We do this through time in His Word as we seek Him with an open mind and humble heart. We do this through moment-by-moment prayer. And going back to question #1, of all the “best things” we may seek in this life, nothing eclipses life in Christ. But this requires patience.
Patience. Waiting and patience go hand in hand. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23) cultivated by the Holy Spirit as we open our heart, mind, and life to Him and allow Him to do His transformative work in us. We can’t manufacture patience. We can’t give it to ourselves. Ironically, when we pray for patience, we often encounter progressively difficult situations. I once shared with a wise counselor my desire to grow in patience, and she responded, “Be careful what you ask for.” Why? Because God won’t give you patience like a coat to wear. Rather, He’ll lead you into situations which require patience, and only by working through those situations with Him will the fruit of patience begin to grow.
At different times in life, we all have to wait. We may wait as God strategically works behind the scenes to prepare what’s next. We may wait because the Spirit has work to do in us to prepare us for what’s next. We may wait because the fruit of patience is growing. We may wait because Jesus continues to work in the lives of other people. We may wait because we live in a fallen world and Christ’s plan of redemption for people and things takes time.
Regardless of why we wait––be encouraged! Active waiting, though difficult, stretches us and prepares us for the best things in life. Active waiting strengthens our resolve and reveals the best path in the race marked out for us (Heb 12:1–2).
Friends, I pray that in times of waiting you’ll boldly seek the One who IS in control. Join Him in what He’s doing today even if you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. May your time of active waiting be for His glory and your flourishing.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and revere and put their trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 40:1–3)